Fan violence

A discussion about fan violence in the sport; but which sport?


Behavior of that minority of knucklehead and chuckleheaded fans is topical. That’s why we hear statements like this one, from Sunday’s excellent Outside the Lines on ESPN:

The violence in the stands is one of the main reasons why I won’t allow my family to travel to away games. Because I just wouldn’t be comfortable knowing they are up there and there is nothing I can do if anything might happen to them.”

Or this one:

It might be safer on the field than in the stands.”

Here’s the rub: Those words are not from a shin-guarded soccer man. The first statement is from linebacker Aaron Curry of the NFL’s Raiders. The second is from former NFL man Tony Coats.

So, why is ProSoccerTalk writing about this? Three reasons:

First, as we know, this will continue to be a point of emphasis in MLS, where the fantastic Pacific Northwest rivalries have added so much to the league – but where one awful incident could alter an otherwise sunny landscape as contingents of visiting fans interact.

Second, this is a problem where NFL can certainly learn from professional soccer. I heard Colin Cowherd talking about this last week. His solution is centered around raising ticket prices, which he likes to cite as the chief element in the critical reduction in violence that took place in England starting about 20 years ago.

But that’s not exactly correct. A comprehensive approach, which included modern policing tactics, identification of known troublemaker, calculated seating policies and more, is what helped retake English soccer from the hooligans, not just “raising ticket prices.”

Third: hopefully, attention to roguish fan behavior in NFL (and at baseball games in Atlanta, apparently) puts to bed once and for all this notion that, somehow, soccer as a sport is the root of violence. That was always, and continues to be, a completely ignorant notion.

Back in the late 1990s and into the next decade, I worked dutifully to educate my business, the newspaper business. Validating and amplifying cultural clichés was and continues to be one of the worst practices of legacy media.

Every single time my newspaper dipped into the big bag of media cliché stories, publishing a headline about the latest violence in a soccer ground somewhere in the world – never mind that our newspaper would never, ever, ever otherwise care about some of the leagues involved –  I would go to editors with my standard checklist:

  • Should we really be running cliché stories?
  • Are we going to run the latest arrest report from Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum, where fans are arrested each week?
  • Is this really a sports story? (Because I often heard that “arrests at an NFL game is a ‘news story,’ not a sports story” … which makes no freakin’ sense, of course, if you run stories of fan violence in soccer from obscure spots around the world in the sports page. But, details, details.)
  • Regarding that latest stabbing at a match in Africa, or multiple-arrest incident somewhere in Europe, etc., are we going to run a story about that league’s champion, or about the star player, etc? (The answer, of course, was usually “no.”)

So, the next time some dim bulb floats the tired old saw about soccer violence, you might point to the latest person left in the hospital by drunken goons at an NFL game.

This is society’s issue to attack, not just soccer’s issue or American football’s. It always was.

MLS Cup Playoffs: LA Galaxy 3-1 Real Salt Lake (video)

Los Angeles Galaxy defender Jelle Van Damme (37) congratulates forward Alan Gordon (9) for scoring against the Real Salt Lake during the first half of a knockout round MLS playoff soccer match in Carson, Calif., Wednesday, Oct. 26, 2016. (AP Photo/Alex Gallardo)
AP Photo/Alex Gallardo
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The game in 100 words (or less): The LA Galaxy are through to the conference semifinals of the MLS Cup Playoffs, where they’ll take on the Colorado Rapids beginning Sunday, for the seventh time in eight years with a 3-1 knockout-round triumph over Real Salt Lake at the StubHub Center on Wednesday. Alan Gordon put the home side ahead inside the first quarter-hour before RSL drew level seven minutes later, but Emmanuel Boateng bagged a quickfire brace to complete a pair of brilliant individual exhibitions of dribbling inside the penalty area. With Steven Gerrard unavailable and Robbie Keane only fit to feature off the bench, Bruce Arena turned to Gordon, who gave way to Keane early in the second half after picking up an injury of his own, to play the fulcrum of the Galaxy attack, and it worked to near-perfection during the opening half-hour. Landon Donovan started the game and played 87 minutes, providing the kind of defensive work rate that’s been missing up and down the flanks of LA all season. Sebastian Lletget put in a near-flawless passing performance while playing deep in midfield. Don’t look now, but those are the Galaxy’s biggest question of 2016, all just about answered as the playoffs begin. I won’t say, “I told you so” if/when they win MLS Cup 2016, but…

[ MORE: All of PST’s MLS Cup Playoffs preview coverage ]

Three Four moments that mattered

14′ — Gordon finishes from close range for 1-0 — Landon Donovan -> Giovani dos Santos -> Alan Gordon. Just like Bruce Arena drew it up in preseason midseason last month this week this morning.

21′ — Plata converts from the spot after Morales’ dive — Javier Morales was angling for a penalty from the moment he entered the penalty area. All Emmanuel Boateng had to do was look at him, and Morales was going down.

26′ — Boateng weaves through to make it 2-1 — Left. Right. Left. Right. Left. Boateng took advantage of some poor defending, and the Galaxy were back in the lead.

34′ — Boateng cuts inside, blows past his man, makes it 3-1 — There’s playing in top gear, and there’s having an extra gear that you rarely have to use because no one else on the field has it. Boateng falls into the latter category.

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s MLS coverageStandings | Stats | Schedule ]

Men of the match: Emmanuel Boateng

Goalscorers: Gordon (14′), Plata (21′), Boateng (26′, 34′)

MLS Cup Playoffs: Toronto FC 3-1 Philadelphia Union (video)

Sebastian Giovinco, Toronto FC
Chris Young/The Associated Press via AP
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The game in 100 words (or less): 10 years later, Toronto FC are MLS Cup Playoffs victors. For eight seasons, the playoffs eluded them altogether. Last year, they were one-and-done in embarrassing fashion at the hands of their local rivals. In 2016, it was  their year — a proclamation we’d heard plenty times before — and so far, they’ve lived up to the hype. Wednesday’s 3-1 home victory over the Philadelphia Union in the knockout round gets the monkey off the Reds’ back, but more importantly, afforded Sebastian Giovinco, who bagged a goal and an assist on the night (his second straight game with such a line), 90 more minutes of game time after missing more than a month through injuries as the regular season wound down. After 270 minutes of action, the Atomic Ant looks sharp as ever, and destined to terrorize New York City FC, whom TFC will face in the conference semifinals, beginning Sunday.

[ MORE: All of PST’s MLS Cup Playoffs preview coverage ]

Three Four moments that mattered

15′ — Atlidore feeds Giovinco for 1-0 — The first playoff goal in TFC’s 10-year history. Poor goalkeeping, ball-watching defending, terrible touches, an overhead cross, and a strike off the crossbar. There’s a lot going on here. Watch it all right here.

49′ — Osorio slams home from the corner for 2-0 — The Union have been bad at defending set pieces all season, so is it at all surprising a set-piece gaffe effectively ended their season? No, it’s not.

73′ — Bedoya puts the loose ball home for 2-1 — Speaking of failing to effectively clear a corner kick, the Union were gifted a lifeline 15 minutes before full-time.

85′ — Altidore puts it out of reach, seals it for TFC — Ken Tribbet did not have the best night a center back has ever seen. His final blunder resulted in Jozy Altidore reclaiming TFC’s two-goal lead, and ending the Union’s 2016 season.

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s MLS coverageStandings | Stats | Schedule ]

Men of the match: Sebastian Giovinco

Goalscorers: Giovinco (15′), Osorio (49′), Bedoya (73′), Altidore (85′)

Men In Blazers podcast: Mourinho’s Chelsea return; Bradley’s 1st point

Men In Blazers
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Rog and Davo break down Jose Mourinho’s return to Chelsea with Manchester United, another stumble for Manchester City and Bob Bradley’s first Premier League point.

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VIDEO: Altidore, Giovinco combine for TFC’s first-ever playoff goal

Sebastian Giovinco
Chris Young/The Associated Press via AP
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It’s been 10 years in the making, and Toronto FC finally have their first-ever goal in the MLS Cup Playoffs.

[ MORE: All of PST’s MLS Cup Playoffs preview coverage ]

After failing to qualify for the playoffs in each of their first eight seasons, 2015 saw the Reds venture into the postseason for the first time ever, only to be thumped in the knockout round, 3-0, by their 401 derby rival Montreal Impact, of all sides.

This is the year, though, or so we’ve said and been told all season long. While it remains to be seen how deep of a run TFC can muster in 2016, they’ll always have the Jozy Altidore‘s terrible first touch; Altidore’s wayward second and third touches; Altidore’s overhead cross; and Sebastian Giovinco’s strike, all of which you can watch in all its hilarity glory below.

[ MORE: Power rankings — Playoffs edition | MLS Cup predictions ]